Review: THE DREAMING #13
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Dani Strips
Colours: Mat Lopes
Letters: Simon Bowland
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
The Dreaming #13: As they fade from the world’s consciousness, Nurse Nikki’s support group of marginalized myths and monsters gathers to discuss their shared crisis and forge a path to their former glory. When they decide that the best way to reclaim their power in the minds of men is to take to the streets to party, the motley parade of spirits, demons, and legends provokes an unimaginable existential hangover.
Since the launch of the Sandman Universe titles, I have felt that The Dreaming is a spiritual successor to Gaiman’s original Sandman series. I don’t know if this is because of Gaiman’s oversight of the title or if the credit is entirely due to Simon Spurrier, but some issues of The Dreaming perfectly recapture the feeling of Gaiman’s masterpiece. This is definitely one of them.
Several times throughout The Sandman, Gaiman would take a break from the main story of the title and tell a tangential tale, featuring characters or concepts that briefly touched on his main story. Spurrier does likewise in this issue of The Dreaming.
Remember back in issue #7, when Rose Walker was visiting Lucien in a Brighton Hospital? Rose met a nurse whose name she had trouble remembering. This is her story.
It turns out that the nurse, Nikki, is a mythological creature, a Nixie. She attends regular meetings with similar creatures, who are dealing with something they call “the wane”. They are slowly fading into non-existence as the world forgets them.
This story contains a number of interesting ideas about the relationship between humanity and the creatures birthed by our imagination. They only exist as much as we believe in them, and in today’s modern scientific age, they are gradually fading away.
Also, they are slaves to their nature, adopting the form and the behaviour that we assign for them. Nikki tells the others of the time that she was a dragon for awhile: “All it takes is one historian with a stiffie for St. George and I’m a bloody great knucker living in a pond.”
I also found it interesting that the only one of their group who seems to be doing well is the Green Man. On one hand he thrives, due to his likeness being used on bar signs and craft beers. However, he has gone from being a fertility god, to a being whose main concerns are boozing and partying. Nikki and the Colorado Bufeo note that he’s already gone, “but only on the inside.”
I also found striking how their status is reflected, or perhaps influenced by, their Wikipedia entries. The character of Gentle Goellan constantly complains that someone is erasing parts of his Wikipedia page. And at the end, when he is gone and forgotten by the rest, Nikki looks him up, only to get the message, “Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name.”
Their sad fate is made that much worse by the fact that when they fade entirely, not even the other mythological beings left remember them. This is shown on the posted list of their group’s members. At the beginning of the story, we see Nikki complaining that someone is vandalizing the list by adding prank names. But after Gentle Goellan fades, we see her assuming his name is a fake name and crosses it off. That is when we realize that the other names aren’t pranks, but other creatures that have succumbed to the wane.
I could complain about the break from the main story. After all, we are left eagerly waiting to see what happens next to the main cast as Wan settles in as the new Lord of Dreams. But this diversion serves as a clear indication that we have finished one chapter and gives us a quick respite before we head into the next.
Also, it gives a further depth to the Sandman Universe, showing us that even the briefly appearing background characters have their own fascinating stories. This helps created the sense that there are other stories happening beyond the ones we get to read in these pages.
Of the Sandman Universe titles, The Dreaming is the one with the closest ties to Gaiman’s Sandman. But it is telling a new story that sometimes recaptures the essence of the the earlier series, but also forges ahead into a new direction. This issue gives us a nice taste of the past before the story forges ahead again.